The eReader Decision · July 14, 2010

Two days ago, I finally went out and got myself the nook.  As the months have passed since my original posts on eReaders, the decision became an easy one.  While I don’t intend this to be a fully-informed feature comparison, etc, I’ll tell you my reasons why.

The first is the Agency Model that book publishers have forced retailers into using.  In a nutshell it means that regardless of which eBook store you use, the price for the same eBook at each should be the same, even though that price may be higher (across the board) than what you’d expect.  That right there says a lot to me: 1) The playing field has somewhat leveled and the choice of which bookstore your device is tethered to is less part of the decision, and it becomes more about the device and its features.  2) There’s no really good reason anymore to argue for proprietary data formats, because nobody can claim that their bookstore has the lowest prices and their device is the one everyone should buy, using that to trap consumers into their proprietary format and future devices for life.  While I don’t believe the Agency Model allows for good market competition, I think it has the potential to force  retailers into dissolving their proprietary formats, then banding together in support of returning to a model that fosters healthy competition and a realistic pricing model in this space, much as the digital music stores have.

Other eReaders are emerging on the market, but for various reasons they are not a good fit for me.  In my two other posts on eReaders, I mentioned two in particular that I was watching: the Alex Reader by Spring Design and the Ocean by Copia.  I liked the Alex because it’s also a dual-screened Android device, like the nook.  They went to market with a $399 price point, however, which is twice what the fullest featured nook costs right now and that’s a complete deal-breaker for me.  (And I have no plans to inadvertently help fund the lawsuit Spring Design has brought against Barnes & Noble about the similarity between the Alex and the nook.)  The Ocean is the most attractive eReader I’ve seen so far, but Copia has been stringing people along for months now with nothing to show for it, not even the release of their supposed social network that their readers are meant to tie into.  People won’t buy into hype forever; I’m the case and point in this instance.

Everyone’s talking about the iPad and comparing it to an eReader.  Well, first of all it’s not.  It’s an over-sized iPhone that runs the iPhone OS, but doesn’t have a phone.  So it’s a tablet, without a fully functional operating system behind it.  By its nature as a tablet it has a backlit screen, which can make reading for long periods of time hard on the eyes and drains the battery.  The eInk in eReaders takes no power to display something on the screen, only when changing what’s on the display screen.  That’s why the battery life of eReaders is so long.  So if you want a Fisher-Price-sized iPhone without the phone, which allows you to read eBooks through your bookstore’s iPhone app, get the iPad.  Otherwise, get an eReader and read.

So, in the end I bought the nook: an Android-powered, dual-screened eReader tethered to Barnes & Noble, a bookstore I’ve come to loathe.  But I’m 100% ok with that.  The nook is still the most attractive device for me, from a technical standpoint.  It runs on Google’s Android platform, which I like.  That also means that (fingers crossed) at some point in the future I may be able to use the Kindle for Android app on it and also buy eBooks from Amazon.  The battery is user-replaceable (key for me on almost any device I buy), and I can add more memory which is also key.  I bought the 3G version, which really only means I paid $50 more for the ability to use B&N’s bookstore wherever I am, because the 3G allows you to do nothing else.  Borders (the bookstore I prefer) just opened their eBook store that supports the open ePub format, which can be used on a wide variety of eReaders.  I can purchase and sideload them onto my nook using Adobe Digital Editions.  I’m able to use public library eBook loan systems with the nook, as well as other, independent eBook sites like and fictionwise.  I’ve also discovered a great tool that you can download and use to manage your eBooks from these various sources that works well with the nook, called Calibre.

I highly doubt this is the last eReader I’ll ever buy.  This one suits my needs and desires now, and I think it will for the foreseeable future.  I can only hope that the next time I need to shop around for one, the market has evolved to the point where it really is all about the device’s features and not to which vendor’s bookstore it’s tethered.  Another factor in the decision at that time will be whether or not I can transfer all of the eBooks I’ve purchased between now and then, proprietary format or not, onto that new device.

Comments are closed.